Why And How To Treat Employees Like Customers Using Omnichannel Communications

Why And How To Treat Employees Like Customers Using Omnichannel Communications

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Tim Vaughan is Head of Content at Poppulo.

Here’s a question for employee communicators: If companies with a laser focus on customer experience can outperform those that don’t, shouldn’t you focus your comms strictly through the experience lens of your customers — your employees? In 2017, Forrester found that customer-obsessed companies had the highest median three-year sales growth.

As the head of content at a company that offers an omnichannel employee communications platform, I believe your communications strategy should be built around their needs first and foremost and should reach them on their preferred channels, wherever they work and with personalized information that’s relevant for them. It should help create purpose and meaning and should nurture culture and belonging.

By now, there shouldn’t be any need to “sell” the importance of employee experience (EX). Just take one quote and one fact: 

• McKinsey says employee experience is “essential for companies to compete effectively,” and 

IBM-WorkHuman research shows that even a small improvement in EX can have a significant impact on operating income. In one scenario, the operating income increase amounted to millions of dollars for a company with a sales revenue of $600 million.

That’s from the company’s perspective. Employees? Employees today don’t always stick around if their workplace experience doesn’t match what they want. In my experience, culture and values are priorities, and how a company communicates, listens to and connects with its people goes a long way toward defining the employee experience.

What Employee Communicators Can Learn From Customer Experience

It’s worth exploring how organizations can replicate long-established marketing approaches to successful customer experience (CX) and apply them to shape that all-important superior employee experience, particularly through their workplace communications.

It doesn’t take much digging before one word leaps out: omnichannel.

This is how John Bowden, former senior vice president of customer care at Time Warner Cable, describes it:

“Omni-channel … is viewing the experience through the eyes of your customer, orchestrating the customer experience across all channels so that it is seamless, integrated, and consistent.”

This omnichannel strategic approach has been used to create successful customer experiences for decades. I’ve found that consumers expect a seamless and complementary experience every time they interact with a company or product.

Since employees enjoy this experience as consumers in their private lives, why should anybody be surprised when they expect and demand the same quality of experience at work?

What Does All This Mean For Employee Communications?

Let’s do a comms take on the Bowden definition above. It’s:

“Viewing your internal communications through the eyes of your employees, orchestrating their comms experience across all channels (email, mobile, digital signage, intranet and social) so that it is seamless, integrated and consistent.”

This all sounds very reasonable and desirable, but how do you do it?

Regrettably, many organizations may not be able to achieve this as long as the’re using a multichannel strategy (which tends to involve siloed, individual and unconnected channels and technologies) instead of a fully integrated omnichannel approach to communication.

What Sets Omnichannel Comms Apart From Multichannel?

McKinsey says employee experience “requires a human-centric approach,” and this gets to the heart of one of the most fundamental differences I’ve identified between omnichannel and multichannel communications.

When you adopt an omnichannel communication strategy, you view your employees as your customers — and you put them front and center at all stages of your internal comms process and thinking.

And you do it strategically in a seamlessly integrated way for a consistent experience.

“Seamless, integrated and consistent”: that’s what puts an omnichannel approach on a different level than siloed multichannel communications where — as far as the employee is concerned — frequently irrelevant information can be pushed to them on multiple channels in disconnected incoherence, creating distracting noise and comms overload. 

Omnichannel comms are employee-centric: Content is personalized and employees can move between different channels that are specifically built to work together across email, mobile, digital signage, video and other mediums. There should be one content source for all channels, and communications should be adapted automatically and appropriately for each channel. 

When companies do this, employees can enjoy a more seamless, consistent and integrated experience in whatever channel they interact with. 

Multichannel communications, on the other hand, are channel-centric rather than employee-focused. They typically use siloed channels that are not built to integrate or work together. This can result in a disjointed experience for employees when they move from one channel to another.

To create and implement an omnichannel communications strategy, you should:

• Audit your existing channels. Use a combination of quantitative (statistical analysis) and qualitative data (focus groups, interviews and observations) to find out what’s working and what’s not. Work with other departments, such as HR, to assess cross-organizational comms.

• Survey employees to determine their channel preferences (email, mobile, digital signage and team and social networks) and when they like to receive their comms. 

• Create employee personas as a first step toward facilitating what I believe is the single most important focus of workplace communication today: information that is specifically targeted toward individuals or groups of people and is personalized for relevance. You should make sure your comms are aimed at a specific “somebody” rather than a generic “everybody.” This can encourage people to tune in to workplace communications instead of tuning out.

• Measure your comms performance engagement and effectiveness across all channels through unified omnichannel analytics. 

Because of the employee-centric mindset that underpins an omnichannel strategy — and the fully integrated technical infrastructure required to support it — the focus on personalizing communication can help increase content relevance for employees, reducing distracting noise and information overload.

In contrast, one-size-fits-all multichannel comms in which the same content is published in the same way on all channels may have less personal relevance and risks causing some people to tune out.

When you follow the steps above, you can not only facilitate an employee-centric approach to what you do but also encourage your people to engage with your comms when it best suits them on their preferred channel — which can ultimately help support the superior employee experience that contributes to a company’s success.


Forbes Communications Council is an invitation-only community for executives in successful public relations, media strategy, creative and advertising agencies. Do I qualify?


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